Crusty Sourdough Loaf

Crusty bread, deep golden crust, moist, fluffy and airy interior. Great crumb and very nice oven spring! Superb recipe for a beginner's sourdough bread.

Couldn't have been more pleased for the way this loaf has turned out! This is to date the most oven spring my full sourdough loaf has got without any yeast. I think it must've been the more regular feelings and the shorter feeding cycles too! Also, this dough is lower hydration than most other doughs I've worked with, so it's a lot easier to handle especially for a beginner like me. I love the crackly dots on the crust which I think is a mark for a good crust, as well as the crumb which is not too heavy or gummy but just chewy and fluffy enough! There a distinct tang of the sourdough but it isn't overpowering, just a like a background right there but not quite overwhelming. The slash on the loaf is great, thanks to the razor blade I bought from Japan (which is so sharp I cut my finger while washing it), and the great oven spring really shows off the gorgeous loaf and makes it look a lot more professional. 

I don't know but being able to produce this loaf really takes my bread baking/ sourdough baking journey to a whole new level :) I can't wait to try out even more recipes to make gorgeous, delicious loaves to share and enjoy. Thinking of maybe trying the tumeric and leek sourdough loaf from the recent sourdough book, or maybe even try a sweet chocolate version, complete with melty pockets of dark chocolate, sweet cranberries and walnuts. We could even have Indian inspired versions- mixed spices, mustard seeds, dried figs, or Mediterranean style with sundried tomatoes and olives, inspired by crown bakery's chicken rice bread. And of course multigrain wholewheat seeded versions with wholewheat flour, oats, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds. And maybe a pumpkin loaf too, using my pumpkin powder. The possibilities are endless, and I can't wait to try them all out. If I can master a great sourdough loaf now, I cannot image what else I'll be able to do 10 years down the road. 

Oh and also, I'd love to master pastries too! I quite suck at cake decorating but I think I'm starting to get a better hang on how to make pastries! I'd be nice to master Danish pastries, puff pastries, croissants and British meat pies- start with the rough cheats versions first, and once you're more familiar with those, get on to making the real deal. Nothing really beats homemade pastry- it's so much better than those you get outside. And fruit pies would be delicious to experiment with too- other than the usual apple pie, I think a peach or blueberry pie would be great too! Complete with a flaky, not too sweet pie crust, or a nice golden crumb topping. Yum! 

If I were to imagine and daydream, my future bakery-cafe would be like this- wake up in the morning and start preparing the bread doughs, feeding the starters, shaping and baking and cooling loaves, buns and pasties for the morning crowd. We'd serve coffee- freshly ground, good roasted coffee beans- and croissants, sweet and savoury Danish pastries, brioche rolls, cinnamon buns and traditional local otah buns. We'll have a mixture of east and west- matcha buns with a swirl of black sesame, or raspberry cream cheese buns with a crumb topping. In the late morning, sandwiches and loaves of bread come out of the oven, along with fruit pies, pound cakes and cookies. The slightly stale loaves are used for croutons and fresh, pressed paninis packed in brown paper bags, lightly toasted and filled with vinegar dressed salad greens, shredded chicken, spicy tangy kimchi mayo and crunchy sesame vege. The croutons will go atop some homemade pumpkin soup, sprinkled with a flourish of African Dukkah. Pies, cakes and cookies vary everyday, perhaps maybe on weekends where we will have a larger variety of them. We'll have caramel apple pie as our daily special, and sometimes blueberry, peach or a custard pie, depending on seasonality of fruits! For cakes we'll have cinnamon coffee cakes, fruit buckles, vanilla and chocolate pound cakes, banana cake, and maybe occasional layer cakes of cereal milk and matcha. For cookies, we'll have salted dark chocolate cookies everyday, and sometimes special treats of matcha nutella cookies or speculoos, peanut butter and dark chocolate. There may be brownies or white chocolate blondies on other days, or maybe homemade scones for Sunday tea- the classic vanilla with dried cranberries or currants, and special new flavours like pineapple Rosemary or pear thyme. We may serve our baked goods with homemade vanilla or salted caramel ice cream, churned in small batches. 

Sunday brunch would come with classic big breakfasts of really good scrambled eggs, shashuka with toast soldiers, French toast with blueberry maple syrup, homemade granola with yogurt and honey. Fresh bread baskets, served warm with salted French butter and jam, and griddled smoked sausages and spinach frittatas. Of course fruit galettes of plum and apricots, served with some lightly sweetened whipped Creme fraiche, and golden crisp waffles topped with caramelised bananas and dark chocolate. 

If I have lots of manpower or if I could have as many shops as I wished, I'd serve dinner too. Classic Asian and Italian home food. Starting with the bread baskets- that come with assorted fresh bread from the bakery, served with truffled ricotta and marinara sauce. Saucy gochujang fried chicken, eggplant Parmesan, and pastry hors dourves. Classic Italian lagsane, braised beef with good tagliatelle, pumpkin and sage ravioli. Japanese rice with miso eggplant, rich kombu broth with juicy pork meatballs, and classic sesame salad. Braised beef atop a bed of creamy parmesan polenta, and Korean style bimbimbap baked rice, complete with a gochujang sauce, cheesy melty mozzarella, and fresh pickled vegetables. There might be pizzas and calzones too, simple basil, mozzarella and tomato ones, as well as pepperoni and smoked salmon white sauce ones. 

Okay enough said and enough daydreaming. Oh we forgot about decor and layout- rustic wooden tables and wire chairs with comfy pillows, sleek and modern display cabinets, displaying fresh bread on racks and cookies in jars, pies in their plates. Homey, comforting place, perfect for spending the afternoon reading a book in, catching up with friends and family. Smell of roasted coffee beans and dark chocolate. Lavender sugar and honeyed rosemary nut brittle. Potted plants, fresh herb garden. Most of all, the smell and the warmth of fresh baking. 

Crusty Sourdough Loaf 
1 large or 2 smaller loaves 

150g active starter, refreshed at least twice after being in the fridge (should pass the float test) 
250g water 
25g olive oil 
500g bread flour 
10g salt 
Fine cornmeal, for dusting 

Autolyse 30 minutes. Add salt, stretch and fold till combined. 
Bulk ferment 3 hours, stretching and folding every 30 minutes for the first 2 hours, then let rise for the last 1 hour. Alternatively, stretch and fold for the first 2 hours, let retard overnight. 
Divide into loaves and shape. Do not need proofing basket for this loaf. 
Let rise on parchment paper lightly dusted with cornmeal, in a Dutch oven, about 1h or till puffy, risen and springs back slowly when touched. Preheat oven to 230 degrees Celsius. 
Score loaf. Bake at 200 degree Celsius for 20 minutes covered, 40 minutes uncovered. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing in. 

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